Friday, May 1, 2015

How to Get Started on Etsy

I certainly don't consider myself an expert by ANY means, but with more friends looking to start their own crafty businesses either through a blogging interface or an Etsy shop, I find myself repeating some very important ideas that I think any online entrepreneur should know.  So here are my tips to anyone looking to share their talents with the world.  

1.  Start a separate bank account NOW. Whether it is a national bank with sign up incentives like "$100 when you open a new checking account for one year," or your local credit union, you want a separate account so you can track if you are losing or making money.  Plus this is the account that you use to pay all your shop expenses (supplies, listing fees, taxes, shipping, craft show entry fees, etc).  It also ensures that you won't be dipping into (and thus NOT feeling guilty about) family funds for your hobby/job investments that may take some time to make a return.
I have mine with my local credit union and even have a debit card tied to the account which makes it super easy to purchase supplies online or in store!

2. Use the Etsy shipping tool.  You will save a great deal on your shipping costs with their lower rate.  I love offering free shipping now because of it.  Also print your shipping labels at home and have your postman pickup your packages (if they are light/small - be kind to your mail carriers) from your house.  This has been a huge relief for me with a little one at home.  Not to mention it could save you on driving costs. 

3. Calculate your shipping AND materials costs when figuring out what to charge for shipping.  How much does the box, wrapping material, thank-you note, AND postage cost to ship each item?  Individually as well as in small groups?  Think of someone buying your large item plus one or two smaller items.  Do the smaller items add a lot of weight or could they squeak by with only adding $0.50 to the total shipping cost?
Once you've figured out your packaging, can you buy your supplies in bulk?  If you have an amazon prime membership, this would be a great way to put it to good use (Free 2-day shipping!)  

4. Use all 5 pictures: overview (the entirety of the object/s), close-up for texture, alternative view (back/wrongside, etc), in use, and if you need another idea: show a picture of it in production (think "behind the scenes") or all wrapped up & ready for shipping (this is a great picture for the holidays).
There are plenty of tutorials out there on making your pictures top-quality so I won't go into that; but it is VERY VERY important that your photos ARE top-quality if you want to stand out and make the sale.  The best part is you don't need an expensive camera (I use my Samsung Galaxy S5) or professional software (I use Preview on my Mac or PhotoEditor on my phone) to get great images.
I've also discovered Canva for adding fonts to my images to turn them into graphics.  This makes a great Listing Image.

5. Pricing is probably the hardest part of selling your work.  Consider your materials cost, your hours to make the item, as well as the time it takes to promote/photograph/list your item for sale.  Here is a great article on pricing your work without undervaluing yourself.  The biggest mistake newbies make is to UNDERprice their work.  Don't be afraid to charge what it's worth for you to make it!  Remember: You enjoy making something that someone else would rather pay for (so they don't have to make it themselves) therefore you're doing them a favor!  Keep this in mind when you're pricing your work or someone says, "my grandmother/mother/whomever could make that."  Yeah, they COULD make that, but will they?
If you're worried about your price coming out too high, see if you can break up your item into smaller pieces - i.e. one main piece with a few of the smaller pieces that are needed to "complete" it and sell more of the smaller add-ons in larger (and different numbers of) quantities so as to keep your price points low in your shop if that is something you're worried about.

6. Are you offering customization?  size, shape, color, personalization, different material(s)?  rush shipping?  Biggest mistake is to offer TOO MANY CHOICES.  There was even a TedTalks about it.  Think about how your customer (or you) like to shop.  Personalization or ordered + done?  Especially during the holidays are you looking for complete customization or hitting the "buy now" button and being done with it?  (no assembly required?)

7. Join Forums, read the Handbook + subscribe to Etsy Success Newsletter.  Read whatever you can get your hands on to improve your knowledge of selling online in general.  You can also follow my Pinterest boards on Blogging, Freelancing, and tips for your Etsy shop.

8. Reach out + don't be afraid to ask questions.  You just might find a mentor who can help you avoid some of their own mistakes and get you on the path to success a little quicker.  Shoot me an email or leave a comment below.  I love to help out fellow entrepreneurs!

9. Marketing!  It's time to create a Facebook Page for your Etsy shop (use your shop's name and create it's url the same: to make it easy for people to find you.  Same for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest & Google+.  I use gmail for my shop's contact so that links up with Google+ pretty easily for me.   Trying to update across all these social platforms can seem VERY overwhelming.  Luckily there is a nifty little tool,, that I LOVE to use.  It automates all my post updates via "triggers."  Aka, I list a new item on Etsy and it shares that to Facebook & Twitter via the "Recipes" I have saved.  You can check out more tools I use here.

10. Is writing a blog right for you?  Do you have the time to commit to a blog?  Or would you just keep it in your back pocket to jot some notes down + slap a picture up once in a while?  Be up front with any potential readers what your plan is (regular posts 5 days a week or 1 every quarter?  Knowing why you blog will help focus your content + approach).
If not, try social media outlets to stay connected with your clientele via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.  Don't try to do them all right off the bat.  Use one until you feel comfortable with its platform before adding another to the mix.  (This is where IFTTT can come in handy to keep your presence on the other platforms updated.  Read more about other blogging resources here).  These social media platforms allow for more concise + regular check-ins without as much expectation from your readers as a blog might.

What did I miss?  What advice did you need when you were first starting out?  Please leave all your wisdom in the comments for our friends who are just embarking on this exciting journey :)

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  1. Having a quick project like that is nice =) I enjoy ways to see immediate results, as I do better with positive feedback from what I see in my projects. I've been catching up on half finished projects. I just finished a standmixer cover, and some halloween cooking aprons. Next on deck is a can coozie clip cover and some PJ's for my fiance that I already cut (His size has changed since they were cut, so we'll see how it goes lol).

  2. Sometimes I think your blog posts are written just for me ;)

  3. I'm addicted to Downton Abbey (totally bummed there's only one more season!) and I usually watch that on the PBS website.

    Just recently finished watching all of Futurama on Netflix. We also are watching Bob's Burgers on Netflix, which I didn't think I'd like but after a couple episodes it really grew on me.

    One of my favorite shows is Doctor Who, which I watch on Netflix (the new stuff) and channel 24.2 (the old stuff) weeknights at 8pm.

    I'm also a sucker for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. That, too, is on Netflix (notice a theme? ;) ).

  4. Of course they are! :) I write a lot of my recent content with you in mind! Glad this one speaks to you! And THANK YOU for always taking the time to comment. It makes my day + encourages me to write more for you! :-D Happy Friday!!

  5. Good for you! I have too many started projects that need finishing... haha :) The standmixer sounds fun! I've only seen a couple made but they can sure be gorgeous! Good luck with the pjs :)

  6. Did they announce that Downton is ending??? I love binge-watching Downton but I'm not a fan of the "modern" looks. I miss the Edwardian + Victorian dresses.
    I couldn't get into Dr. Who but I also started with the pilot + it was HORRIBLE acting :(
    haha. I love Netflix :) It is definitely my first choice, then HBO + Hulu. Amazon Prime for EJ's watching entertainment ;) or when there are too many people on Netflix, hehe.

  7. Yeah, they did announce Downton ending =( I'm trying to remember where I heard it... I agree about the fashion!

    If you ever want to try Doctor Who again, I recommend starting at season 5. I think the acting is MUCH better.

    Never watched HBO. Hulu always crashes on my devices. Amazon Prime works pretty well, there's just not as much content that interests me. Occasionally I'll watch some old BBC stuff for nostalgia.

  8. I'm glad to do it! Your posts motivate me to be creative and that's a big deal for me! Keep up the awesome work!